Sairen, aka Renske van Kollenburg, has immersed herself in the Dutch dance scene since her min-teens. “At 15 or 16 I started going to gabber raves for a few years, and I loved it,” she tells DJ Mag. “My parents were somewhat afraid of it as it can appear to be aggressive, but it’s nothing to be afraid of — it’s just a high energy, hard, fast bpm sound and definitely an important part of our Dutch rave culture.”
As soon as she got her driving license she was off clubbing every weekend — often taking in three cities in three days. “I travelled everywhere by myself, and DJs would come up to me and say ‘You’re always here’,” she recalls. “I got a really big network all of a sudden, without me knowing. Then I was asked to do interviews — but more being a host — on a local TV channel in the Netherlands in 2009.”The show didn’t air because of budget reasons, but she became a TV presenter and journalist anyway, started her own company and travelled the world interviewing legends like Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers. She still gets the odd bit of presenting work. “It comes naturally,” she says.
Despite having a DJ set-up at home Renske didn’t see herself as a DJ initially. “Promoters would sometimes ask me to help with line-ups, and for one event in Amsterdam they suggested I play the warm-up,” she says. “And I did. Two years later, in 2013, I was playing in different places in Europe, in the States and even Ibiza — under my former moniker.” Renske originally chose Sirena as her DJ name. The Spanish word for mermaid, she explains to DJ Mag how a lifelong obsession with mermaids led to her adopting the name — a name that assorted industry people had started calling her anyway, apparently.
She gradually eased out a few dubby techno releases on Kevin Saunderson’s KMS label, inmotion Ltd, revered Belgium imprint Bonzai and Italian label Lyase, but got booked for lots of house gigs in the meantime. She started feeling that she couldn’t always play the music she really wanted to at the house shows she was booked for. “I always felt I had to hold back at the gigs I was playing,” she says. “You couldn’t just pull out techno at most of the gigs I was booked for.” It was as if some deeper part inside of her couldn’t get out.
Last year she had an epiphany and decided to change her DJ name. She had thought about it a lot over the years, but af ter a burnout and some time off last year she felt it was the perfect time to start a new chapter, and opted to remix the letters of her old DJ name into the darker-sounding Sairen (pronounced ‘siren’). “Sirena was never a supercool techno-y name anyway,” she says, smiling.
“As DJs we love all kinds of music, but the core of techno, even though it’s a big genre now, is still as raw and pure as it ever was,“ she continues. “I could’ve probably had a bigger career playing other things, but I just couldn’t. I said no to a lot of things.”
With gigs now flocking in and releases being lined up, Sairen explains how her sets always have to have a little bit of funk or groove or warmth in them. “I’m a big fan of dub and Detroit techno — that’s where everything started for me,” she says, specifically namechecking Robert Hood. “Techno has such a realness to it, you can’t fake it. It has to have a specific warmth, though. My new tracks definitely have higher bpms and more energy. I always include some acid vibes in my sets too. I have a new focus — it’s a clean slate, and that feels amazing.”